The problem we are facing in regards to securing a sustainable energy supply is threefold:
In the short term, we seek to urgently reduce Europe’s dependency on fossil fuels from Russia. The nexus between European security and local access to sufficient resources of green, renewable energy has become evident.
In the medium term and to get on the 1,5-degree-path, we need to phase out coal and gas and replace it with renewable energy.
And in the long term we need a lot more renewable energy to power a transforming economy. Just think of the massive amounts of electrical power that is needed to produce green hydrogen and synthetic fuels which are necessary to transform hard to abate industries like steel, shipping or aviation.
One answer is geothermal energy. As it provides energy on a continuous basis it reduces the need to build large energy storage capacities, making it an ideal substitute for conventional fossil-based heat and power supply in many applications.
However, engineering hurdles have prevented a vast move into geothermal energy. Most geothermal energy can be harvested at depths of 5km or more. Hard rock (granite) is usually reached at around 3km of depth, and after this point costs rise exponentially due to highly decreased durability of contact drill heads. In a process known as “tripping” drills need to be pulled up one-by-one to replace drill heads – this can take a crew 32 hours to complete at a depth of just 3 km. The deeper the hole and the harder the rock, the more tedious and costly tripping becomes.
Enter GA Drilling. The team, based in Bratislava, Slovakia has come up with Plasmabit®, a new type of contactless drill that destroys hard rock using high-powered plasma pulses. Compared to legacy mechanical drilling, this contactless technology is key, as it overcomes the “tripping” challenge.
Their innovative technology is now able to exploit ultra-deep geothermal energy and could give us access to a permanent supply of renewable heating, cooling and power, provided anywhere, as well as providing a future-proof transition for skilled oil and gas workers, as existing infrastructure can be easily used. Their plasma driller leads to reducing drilling costs for geothermal projects, allowing the energy price to remain competitive even at deep depth.
The engineering team around founder and CEO Igor Kocis is extremely experienced, they have developed a complete drilling system over the last decade, plan to drill their first wells within the next 18 months and have developed all necessary partnerships in order to do so.
To us, this is one of the most promising energy innovations. The rapid rate of penetration of their Plasmabit® drill in hard rock environment enables linear drilling cost to any depth. Costs of drilling per meter are lower by an order of magnitude.
Tapping into supercritical geothermal energy might be a silver bullet to mass-scaling base-load continuous renewable energy today, not only in 20 years. It is hard to imagine a more relevant solution.
A detailed Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) conducted by Planet A Ventures reveals that geothermal energy can substantially reduce GHG emissions in comparison with fossil-based generation. The net reduction exceeds 430g CO2-eq. per kWh if geothermal replaces natural gas, and 1kg CO2-eq. per kWh when hard coal, lignite or oil are displaced. Geothermal electricity reduces GHG emissions by 99% compared to the conventional electricity supply it displaces. If non-condensable gasses are included, the average reduction of GHG emissions amounts to 88%.